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My job explained: Commercial lawyer

commercial lawyerDavid Camp is a commercial law solicitor working at Baker & McKenzie. Find out what his fast-paced life is like and discover why he finds the work so rewarding.

What inspired you to study law?

I studied history at university, and wasn’t quite sure where it could take me. My parents are both lawyers so I visited a law fair, read a lot of student guides on law, and was accepted on two vacation scheme placements at law firms. I finally decided that being a solicitor was the job for me because I enjoyed my placements, and really wanted a job in the city.

How long did it take to train and what did the training involve?

After my degree, I did a law conversion course, which was intensive because it’s basically a three-year degree condensed into one year. After that I did a one-year Legal Practice Course, where we were taught how to practically apply law in a work scenario. I didn’t enjoy that quite as much, although it required much less work.
My training contract was at Baker & McKenzie. They gave me a choice of which departments I wanted to work in and I chose EC law and competition law. I also was sent to work with a client in Switzerland for three months. Baker & McKenzie kept me on after my contract finished, and I’ve been working there ever since!

Can you describe a typical working day?

I usually arrive at my desk between 9am and 9.30am. A lot of my work will be based around contracts; speaking to clients about what they require and then making amendments. There is also quite a bit of reading and document management.

I am in control of my day, so if I take a lunch break I know I will have to stay later in the office. I will normally leave at 7.30pm, but if it’s manic I’ll stay until about 10pm.

What is the best thing about your job?

I get a lot of job satisfaction from someone coming to me with a problem, and then being able to sort it out. It usually takes quite a lot of time to draft contracts in the way the client wants, and getting it right is very rewarding.

Have there been any challenges in getting to where you are now?

This job requires a lot of fast reading. I wasn’t a great reader at university and I am quite happy about the way I turned that around. You also have to understand how lots of different sectors work (such as airline, banking, advertising) and how they impact on your client. That’s very challenging.

What qualities and skills do you think are important for your role?

Apart from being a quick reader, it’s important to be able to think outside the box. You’ve also got to be able to not mind sticking around until 10 o’clock in the evening. If you think you are not prepared to put in the hours, you might prefer to work in a high street practice rather than a big city firm.

What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?

Don’t worry about what subjects you take at school. Anything that requires you to read and understand will be useful, but getting decent grades is important so you can get into a good university.

I knew a lot of people at university who did law as their degree and didn’t want to be lawyers at the end of it, so you have to work out if you have a passion for the law. Do lots of research to try to get a feel of what a lawyer does on a day-to-day basis.

A lot of universities run fairs where the big law firms come along and try to tempt you to apply to them.

Speaking to someone at the firm will give you a pretty good indication of the type of work they do. Remember all firms are different, so research each one before you apply for your training year.

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